Saturday, August 31, 2013

I WENT TO PRISON. . . by Biodun Laaro


Well literally, but then again its not what you think or maybe it is or even worse. Monday morning and we were all beaming with excitement that we will be visiting THE KIRIKIRI MEDIUM SECRUITY prison on an exercise as part of our community development assignment for NYSC (National youth service corps) scheme..  But then not everyone was irked about the visit so we ended up going in a party of 17, in an exciting drive to kirikiri town. Some part of the team got lost on the way so those of us already at the premises had to WAIT, for a brief while.
Moment of truth, all the laughter has subsided because the soldiers had come to take a head count and they came along with starved and horrid looking (not forgetting to mention DROOLING) bull dogs, I guess the point of the dogs was to sniff us for contrabands. The dogs reeked of it, frustration and aggression basically. The soldiers asked us to make sure our we were without our phones in the crudest  way possible; then again they are soldiers and aren’t exactly trained to be friendly.

The tall gates of kirikiri prison opened up and we walked in, we had to stand in two lines separate lines of males and females; to get FRISKED!! (I worry, that last sentence sounds like I was excited about it). Trust me it was done in the most uncomfortable manner you can think of. We went along with supplies, everything either canned or sealed for obvious reasons, as gifts.

Then it began, the inner gates were opened and soon i found myself walking unguided amidst prisoners. We were to visit the inmates’ workshop, development school, clinic and Small Scale Enterprise development sections, we were shortly joined by a guide and navigation through the yard became easier.

We had just left the inmates development school where I saw some of the inmates learning in supposed classes and I’d learnt that some inmates did take GCE exams sponsored by some charity organizations that also provided computers to the inmates. I was told that the National Open University had a section for inmates as well in the maximum security prison where inmates could attain diplomas. That to me was good news. As we walked out of the development school I noticed that we were scouted by inmates just staring at us pitifully, I did try not to look but most of them called out to us, whistling to get our attentions, they were warded off by our guide but to no avail.

At this point I had already began to wallow in pity, then we were shown the inmates that were brought In over the weekend, registering their names and offences they had committed, most of them either still had tears on their faces or depicted images of them desperately wishing they could turn back the hands of time. It was a sore sight, trust me.

The inmates still scouted us and we were literally followed by them to each point of our visitation, now we were at the clinic, some inmates (patients in this case) crowed the door to the clinic and were instructed to clear as we approached. On getting in, we saw the nurses and they welcomed us briefly, they informed us that the doctors were not present so our visit at the clinic was brief. I did notice something however; patients were not allowed to come close to the nurses, so they were treated from afar. Basically the nurses were at one end of the room and the patient was on the opposite end, they would ask them questions screaming across the room and then the drugs would be thrown across to them, the particular patient being treated when we walked in was denied drugs because the nurse said he was just given pills that should last him a week like two days earlier, and he was back again. They accused him of selling it though. It was pathetic because the patient did look sick.

As we left the  clinic I went back to ask I asked the nurses what the most common cases treated there was and she replied ; Ah na Scabies oh. My skin began to crawl almost immediately.  Please bear with me if the next words remind you of a popular Phil Collins song.

As we walked on out of the clinic, an inmate called out in my direction in a rather hushed voice; “bros abeg help me” I tried walking on pretending I couldn’t hear him. He persisted, walking at a distance he couldn’t walk properly but he kept up, “abeg help me with something I bin wan buy slippers” I could see from the blisters on the soles of his feet that he spoke the truth, and the look in his face screamed that he’s been there for a long time. I considered slipping him something, an illegal act, but I was distracted by a sudden burst of laughter from the girls, they were amused by the sight of an inmate bathing out in the open, he couldn’t be bothered you see, I spotted him but all I observed in his nudity was the scars from obvious whiplash and torture, by the time I remembered the inmate pleading for help he had stopped following but sat on the floor staring at us from a far distance.

By this time we had reached the work shop where inmates were taught to develop and practice creative skills from barbing to shoemaking to sewing, some of the “tailors” were even in charge of sewing uniforms for the new and existing inmates. I let out a sigh of relief believing that there is indeed hope for them.

Now I had seen enough, we began slowly towards the gates but a member of the group the asked out of curiosity what was behind a fence that resembled a prison inside the prison, “oh, that’s where we keep the bad ones” said our guide. “oh I want to see” she persisted.
I wish I hadn’t followed on that trail. We were then led towards the cell holding block that the wardens called the lion’s den, it was a dark cell barely even lit by sunlight.. I couldn’t bare the sight so I moved away almost immediately. And at this point out “TOUR” had come to an end.. we proceeded to main gate for exit and we were asked to hand over the tags given to us upon entrance and we were reminded that anyone without the tag will not be allowed exit, we all rattled quickly and handed over our tags and individually exited quickly. We took a head count again just to ensure that no one was missing or left behind *LOL*
To be taken away from this experience for me was a lot, I take my time in perceiving human nature so I tend to pity easily, reminded that I should live a life of humility and righteousness, and that anything can happen to anyone at anytime, life has its ways but then again fine-tuning ours to suit a pattern that is morally sound should be a basis for every action, whilst making objective decisions that is to the benefit of the greater good. And to every young person reading this, PLEASE STAY OUT OF TROUBLE.

Biodun Laaro is a blogger with 

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